DH urges councils to make preventive shift in older people’s support

Councils have been urged to make a “strategic shift” in spending on older people towards prevention after evidence showed this could yield savings in acute services while improving quality of life for pensioners.

Interim findings from the Department of Health’s £60m Partnerships for Older People Projects (Popps) indicated that investment in prevention had cut emergency bed-day use in acute hospitals.

The programme, funded from 2006-8, has supported 470 projects in 29 areas, over 70% of which provided universal services, such as handyman schemes, with the rest offering targeted support to older people with particular needs, including falls avoidance schemes or intermediate care.

The findings were released at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Liverpool last week.

Savings ‘most pronounced’ from hospital avoidance services

Raj Kaur, project manager for Popps at the DH, told delegates that though acute hospital savings were “most pronounced” for services focused on hospital avoidance, they were also accrued through investment in lower-level services.

She added: “Given the savings accrue to health there needs to be agreement up front over how much investment health partners put in and how much social care partners put in.”

The evaluation found that councils had experienced difficulties extracting financial contributions for Popp services from acute health care providers despite the savings they accrued. However, Kaur said there was evidence of savings for social care as well, for instance through reductions in long-term care packages for older people with mental health problems.

Quality of life improvements

Guy Robertson, prevention and early intervention lead at the Care Services Improvement Partnership, said some of the “biggest improvements” achieved by Popps was in quality of life. He said councils and primary care trusts needed to take these non-financial returns into account when investing in prevention.

The evaluation found that only 4% of the projects had planned to cease operating when DH funding ran out, suggesting commissioners had agreed to continue funding most of the schemes.

A final evaluation report is due out next year and Kaur said she hoped it would examine the transferability of the Popp projects to other client groups.

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